TIME relationships

People Who Use Emojis Have More Sex

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Match.com's annual dating survey found that people who use more emojis in text messages have more active sex lives

While this probably isn’t news to fans of the eggplant emoji, a new study found that single people who use emojis have more sex than those who abstain.

Match.com’s annual Singles in America survey — which polled 5,675 (non-Match using) singles whose demographics were representative of the national population according to the U.S. Census — found that people who have more sex, tend to use emojis more.

“It turns out that 54% of emoji users had sex in 2014 compared to 31% of singles who did not,” Dr. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University who helped lead the study, tells TIME. And the more emojis singles used, the more sex they tended to have, as illustrated by Match’s handy emoji-to-intercourse graph:

Match.com's Singles in America Survey
Match.com’s Singles in America Survey

According to the data, released Wednesday, these statistics held true for men and women in the 20s, 30s and 40s.

And, food for thought, women who use kiss-related emojis have an easier time achieving orgasms with a familiar partner. That may be because emoji users cared more about finding partners who consider communication a desirable trait.

It’s notoriously difficult to read tone in texts and emails, but emojis can bridge the gap. “[Emoji users] want to give their texts more personality,” says Fisher. “Here we have a new technology that absolutely jeopardizes your ability to express your emotion… there is no more subtle inflection of the voice … and so we have created another way to express emotions and that is the emoji.”

Because it’s not all about that rocket ship/volcano/insert-other-suggestive-emoji here.

“Emoji users don’t just have more sex, they go on more dates and they are two times more likely to want to get married,” Fisher says. “Sixty-two percent of emoji users want to get married compared to 30% of people who never used an emoji… that’s pretty good.”

Thankfully there are appropriate diamond cartoons for your inevitable Instagram engagement announcement.

TIME Crime

Over 570 Arrested in Super Bowl Sex Traffic Sting

Hundreds busted for soliciting sex

Correction appended

A two-week nationwide sex trafficking sting that coincided with the Super Bowl snared several hundred men seeking to buy sex, and almost two dozen pimps.

A total of 570 would-be “johns”—men who hire prostitutes—and 23 pimps were arrested during the annual “National Day of Johns” sting orchestrated by Cook County, Ill. Sheriff Thomas Dart, which involved 37 law enforcement agencies in 17 states.

Around two-thirds (64%) of the “johns” arrested for soliciting prostitutes were answering fake Backpage.com ads, and 7% were responding to fake Craigslist ads. Almost 3,000 would-be purchasers of sex have been arrested in nine similar operations since the program was started in 2011, but Sheriffs said the 2015 sting was the largest and most successful yet.

“Law enforcement is beginning to realize that arresting the girls over and over again is never going to effectively address prostitution,” said Sheriff Dart. “If there were no johns, there would be no prostitution. It’s not a victimless crime and johns need to be held responsible for their role in exacerbating the sex trade.” 68 victims were recovered in this sting, including 14 juveniles.

Dart says he hopes national sting operations can help raise awareness about sex trafficking and dissuade would-be-johns from buying sex. “Campaigns like this send such a strong message to these guys that the risk of solicitation is just not worth it,” he said.

The Super Bowl has long been a hub for trafficking and prostitution. In a separate incident, Hall of Famer and NFL Network Analyst Warren Sapp was arrested Monday morning after allegedly soliciting and assaulting a prostitute in Phoenix after the Super Bowl. He has been suspended indefinitely from the NFL Network.

Correction: This article originally misidentified the location of Cook County. It is in Illinois.

TIME Sex/Relationships

8 Ways Sex Affects Your Brain

It can boost your mood, relieve pain, and more

Understanding how sex affects your brain can improve your roll in the hay, and it may also shed light on other parts of your health, says Barry R. Komisaruk, PhD, distinguished professor of psychology at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. It’s not the easiest subject to study—test subjects might have to masturbate inside an MRI machine—so research is still developing. But scientists are starting to unravel the mystery. Here’s what we know so far about your brain on sex.

Sex is like a drug

Sex makes us feel good. That’s why we want it, like it, and spend so much time hunting for mates. The pleasure we get from sex is largely due to the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that activates the reward center of the brain. Dopamine is also one of the chemicals responsible for the high people get on certain drugs. “Taking cocaine and having sex don’t feel exactly the same, but they do involve the same [brain] regions as well as different regions of the brain,” says Timothy Fong, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. Caffeine, nicotine, and chocolate also tickle the reward center, says Komisaruk.

Sex can act like an antidepressant

A 2002 study out of the University at Albany looked at 300 women and found that those who had sex without a condom had fewer depressive symptoms than women who did use a condom. The researchers hypothesized that various compounds in semen, including estrogen and prostaglandin, have antidepressant properties, which are then absorbed into the body after sex. (They corrected for other things that might affect both mood and condom use, such as being in a serious relationship or use of oral contraceptives.) This is good news for anyone who is in a committed relationship, but if you’re still playing the field, then you shouldn’t give up condoms. There are other ways to boost mood, but really no other way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

Read more: 13 Reasons to Have More Sex

Sex can (sometimes) be a downer

Those feel-good chemicals may be going full blast during the act, but after? According to researchers, there is such a thing as post-sex blues (technical term: postcoital dysphoria). About one-third of the women participating in one study reported having experienced sadness after sex at some point in time. While it’s possible that regret or feeling coerced might be the reason why, researchers can’t explain the connection at this point for sure.

Sex relieves pain

Don’t skip sex when you have a headache. Research shows that doing the deed may relieve your symptoms. In a 2013 German study, 60% of participants who had migraines and 30% of cluster-headache sufferers who had sex during a headache episode reported partial or total relief. Other studies have found that women who stimulated an area of the G spot had an elevation in pain threshold. “It took greater pain stimulus for them to feel the pain,” says Beverly Whipple, PhD, a professor emerita at Rutgers University who has conducted some research on the topic. Whipple didn’t study why this was so, but other researchers have attributed the effect to oxytocin, the so-called bonding hormone that helps mothers and babies bond and which also has pain-relieving properties.

Read more: 20 Weird Facts About Sex and Love

Sex can wipe your memory clean

Each year, fewer than 7 people per 100,000 experience “global transient amnesia,” a sudden but temporary loss of memory that can’t be attributed to any other neurological condition. The condition can be brought on by vigorous sex, as well as emotional stress, pain, minor head injuries, medical procedures, and jumping into hot or cold water. The forgetfulness can last a few minutes or a few hours. During an episode, a person cannot form new memories or remember very recent events. Fortunately, there seem to be no lasting effects.

Sex may boost your memory

Or at least it might if you’re a rodent. A 2010 study found that, compared with rats who were allowed only one one-night stand, rodents who engaged in “chronic” sex (once a day for 14 consecutive days) grew more neurons in the hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with memory. The findings were backed up by a second study, also in mice. It remains to be seen if regular sex also has this effect in humans (but you can always tell yourself it does).

Read more: 10 Reasons You’re Not Having Sex

Sex calms you down

The same study that linked frequent sex to a brain boost in rats also found that the rats were less stressed. This works for humans, too. One study found that people who’d just had sexual intercourse had better responses to stressful situations like public speaking than people who had not, or who had engaged in other types of sexual activity. How did sex ease stress? In this case, by lowering blood pressure.

Sex makes you sleepy

Sex is more likely to make men sleepy than women, and scientists think they know why: The part of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex winds down after ejaculation. This, along with the release of oxytocin and serotonin, may account for the “rolling over and falling asleep” syndrome.

Read more: Best and Worst Foods for Sex

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

Read next: 5 Things You Need To Know About Kissing

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TIME Sex/Relationships

Unintended Pregnancies Decline Across the U.S.

TIME.com stock photos Pregnancy Test
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Though some states are doing better than others

The rates of unintended pregnancies have fallen in most U.S. states since 2006, according to a new report — though rates remained steady in a dozen states.

Between 2006 and 2010, 28 states out of 41 with data available experienced a drop in their unintended pregnancy rate of 5% or more, according to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute. Twelve states’ rates remained unchanged, and one state—West Virginia—had an increase of 5% or more.

MORE: The IUD: Why The Best Form of Birth Control is One No One is Using

The report notes that in 2010, more than half of all pregnancies in 28 states were unintentional and that the minimum rate for any state was 36%.

The states with the highest unintended pregnancy rates were Delaware, Hawaii, and New York, though the South tended to have higher rates in general. New Hampshire had the lowest rates.

“The decline in unintended pregnancy rates in a majority of states since 2006 is a positive development,” study author Kathryn Kost, a senior research associate for Guttmacher said in a statement. “However, rates remain twice as high in some southern and densely-populated states compared with those in other states—a variation that likely reflects differences in demographic characteristics and socioeconomic conditions across states.”

MORE: Why Schools Can’t Teach Sex Ed

There’s been an increased use of the most effective contraceptives, like the intrauterine device (IUD), which has contributed to the drop in pregnancies. The report underlines double-digit drops in unintended pregnancy rates in Colorado, Iowa and Missouri, after conducting campaigns to promote the use of long-acting methods like the IUD and implant.

In 2010, publicly-funded family planning services also helped prevent 2.2. million unintended pregnancies, according to prior Guttmacher research.

TIME Sex

How Birth Control Has Changed Over the Centuries

A history of contraception, in all its many forms

Birth control may still be a hot button issue today in some countries, but men and women have been using contraceptives for thousands of years, albeit with varied results.

In ancient China, a popular remedy involved drinking a cocktail of lead and mercury. In ancient Egypt, a paste made out of honey, sodium carbonate, and crocodile dung was a popular form of contraception.

However, not all historic forms of contraception were based on superstition. A prototype of the cervical cap has been in use since the 18th century, and cave drawings in France appear to show a version of a condom.

For much of the 19th and early 20th centuries women in the U.S. had a hard time getting their hands on effective contraception. Due to anti-obscenity laws, doctors were not allowed to spread information about birth control.

To compensate for the lack of official methods, household products like Lysol and Coca-Cola were often used, as they were believed to kill sperm.

In 1960 modern birth control was born, when the FDA approved the first oral contraceptive pill for women. Within 5 years, millions of American women had prescriptions for the pill. Today, 99% of women of child-bearing age say they have used some form of birth control.

However, universal access to birth control still does not exist worldwide. Some 220 million women from developing countries say they want to use birth control but don’t have access.

TIME Crime

U.S. Lawyers Seek to Interview Prince Andrew About Sex-Crime Claims

Prince Andrew, Duke of York, visits Georg August University in Goettingen, Germany on June 3, 2014.
Swen Pförtner—AP Prince Andrew, Duke of York, visits Georg August University in Göttingen, Germany, on June 3, 2014

Lawyers move forward with legal discovery in a sex scandal that spans the Atlantic Ocean

American lawyers for a woman who claims to have been trafficked for sex with Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, have asked Queen Elizabeth’s second son to answer the charges in an interview under oath.

Lawyers Paul Cassell and Bradley Edwards, who represent a woman who alleges she was kept as an underage “sex slave” by convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, sent the formal request on Jan. 14 through their own attorney. In it, they ask to discuss what happened “at the time … and shortly thereafter” a widely circulated photo from 2001 was taken. The photograph shows Prince Andrew with his arm wrapped around the bare midriff of Virginia Roberts, the self-described “sex slave,” who is identified in court documents as Jane Doe No. 3.

Epstein, a financier who has recently split his time between New York and Palm Beach, Fla., settled the criminal case against him in 2008 by cutting a deal with federal prosecutors. He pleaded guilty to two Florida state crimes, registered as a sex offender, served a short jail term and agreed to assist financially his alleged victims in filing civil lawsuits against him. The case has been kept alive since then through those civil cases, and through a federal lawsuit by Cassell and Edwards that alleges the prosecutors violated the victims’ rights in their handling of the case.

The newest documents, filed Wednesday in federal court in the Southern District of Florida, reveal further details about the allegations in the tangled legal case. In one new filing, Roberts says that she has not disclosed all the information that she has about sexual encounters she claims to have had with other powerful men, including politicians, because she is “very fearful of these men.” But she adds, “If a judge wants me to present my information in more detail, including more specific descriptions of the sexual activities with the men Epstein sent me to, I could do so.”

At a separate point in the document, Roberts clarifies past statements about her alleged encounters with former President Bill Clinton at a Caribbean retreat owned by Epstein. “Bill Clinton was present on the island at the time I was also present on the island, but I have never had sexual relations with Clinton, nor have I ever claimed to have had such relations,” she says in the document. “I have never seen him have sexual relations with anyone.”

Edwards, one of the attorneys for Roberts, says in another filing that he previously sought to depose Clinton about his knowledge of illegal activity by Epstein and his accomplices. “The flight logs showed Clinton traveling on Epstein’s plane on numerous occasions between 2002 and 2005,” Edwards writes.

In her own sworn statement, Roberts repeats the claim that she was forced into sexual encounters with both Prince Andrew and Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz, a friend and attorney for Epstein. Buckingham Palace has denied that Prince Andrew had “any form of sexual contact or relationship” with the woman, saying in a previously released statement that her claims are “categorically untrue.” Dershowitz also denied the claims, and has filed legal actions against Cassell and Edwards for allowing the accusations to show up in legal filings, prompting Cassell and Edwards to countersue Dershowitz for defamation. A representative for Epstein has dismissed Roberts’ claims as old and discredited.

“I had sex with him three times, including one orgy,” Roberts says in the affidavit, describing her alleged encounters with Prince Andrew. “I knew he was a member of the British Royal Family, but I just called him ‘Andy.’”

In her affidavit, Roberts says, “I have seen Buckingham Palace’s recent ’emphatic’ denial that Prince Andrew had sexual contact with me. That denial is false and hurtful to me. I did have sexual contact with him as I have described here — under oath.”

She asked that the Prince “simply voluntarily tell the truth about everything” and agree to be interviewed by her lawyers under oath.

TIME Business

Now There’s a Female-Friendly Condom You Won’t Be Embarrassed to Buy

Photo courtesy of Lovability

A new brand of female-friendly condoms hopes to make contraception cute

Condoms present the ultimate catch-22: we all need them in order to stay STD-free, but buying them, carrying them, and presenting them can feel dirty.

Tiffany Gaines, 24, is out to change that. She’s in the process of raising money to expand the inventory of her new line of condoms, Lovability. They’re condoms specifically designed for female comfort, and not just in bed. “Lovability condoms were inspired by my realization that I didn’t feel comfortable acquiring condoms, and I didn’t even feel comfortable carrying them, and I didn’t feel comfortable producing them in the moment,” Gaines says. “For years, condoms have been marketed as a masculine, dominant, hyper-sexual product.”

And that’s a problem, since male condoms are approximately 82% effective at preventing pregnancy with average use, and (along with female condoms) they’re the only contraceptive that also prevents STDs. State and municipal health authorities are so sure that condoms are good for public health that they even distribute them for free in some places (like NYC and Philadelphia). Yet only 19% of single women say they regularly use condoms every time. Gaines found that most women she spoke to hated the experience of buying condoms, felt ashamed to carry them, and were anxious about using them, even though 6.2 million women rely on male condoms to prevent pregnancy.

And it’s no wonder, because the condom experience is totally creepy. First, you have to find the condoms in the drugstore next to the pregnancy tests and the yeast-infection treatments (not sexy), and in some stores you have to slide open the noisy plastic theft guards (which make you feel like a criminal), then you have to wait in line to purchase them so everybody sees what you’re buying (and gives you side-eye).

Carrying condoms is equally embarrassing– just look how Reese Witherspoon’s character in Wild was judged when fellow hikers found her stash. And after all that, Gaines says that many women worry that tearing open the slippery packages can cause condoms to rip, or that condoms get put on inside-out in the heat of the moment.

Lovability isn’t the only condom company that’s pushing to appeal to female consumers. Sustain makes eco-friendly condoms marketed to women with tasteful cardboard packaging decorated with shells or bamboo. L Condoms also has female-focused branding, plus they donate a condom to Africa for each condom sold (and offer one-hour delivery in some places). But Lovability condoms are unique in that they don’t look like condoms: they come in a cute little tin that looks more like lip balm or mints than anything else. “You’re first drawn to it in the store because of the way it looks,” Gaines said. “It’s absolutely discrete. It looks like a cosmetic product.”

The tins are designed so women can carry them in their purses without being embarrassed if they’re found, which means spontaneous encounters don’t have to be unprotected ones. The design also eliminates the anxiety that the condom might rip when the package is opened; Lovability condoms come in a special buttercup packaging, so there’s no confusion about which side of the condom is the top. “In a regular foil wrapper, you have no idea, you’re just tearing it and hoping for the best,” Gaines says. “It was really important for us to not only create a condom that was more accessible and more beautiful, but also more functional in the bedroom.” (And each individual condom package comes with a motivational quote inside.)

Lovability is a very young startup: the two-person company started out with less than $10,000 in funding, and even though she’s the president of the company, Gaines spends hours assembling the tins herself. But the condoms were so popular that they sold out in NYC lingerie stores, which is why Gaines and Claire Courtney, Lovability’s outreach director, are raising money to make more. They’ve got their eye on big outlets like Sephora, Anthropologie, and Urban Outfitters, but also want to sell condoms in other places women feel comfortable, like salons, gyms, or spas. Basically, they only want to sell their condoms where no other condoms are sold. Or, as Gaines puts it, “Why shouldn’t you discover your favorite condom brand while enjoying a spa day with the girls?

Gaines says Lovability’s aesthetic appeal is all in the service of public health and sexual empowerment– she wants more women to have condoms with them at all times to prevent the spread of STDs. “You can be safer if it’s a shared responsibility. And a lot of time guys aren’t prepared,” Gaines says. “This is a great opportunity to capitalize on the judgement of women. ” Plus, Gaines adds, some women like to provide the condoms, since “they know it hasn’t been in the guy’s wallet for the last three years.

But the startup hopes to do more than keep women safe. Gaines also wants the condoms to spark discussions about contraception. “Our mission is to bring condoms out of the back room and into the spotlight, and get conversations going about it,” she says. “Modern women are ready to take control of their sexual health, and be proud of it.”

 

TIME psychology

8 Things You Didn’t Know About Sexual Satisfaction

roses
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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

A look at a wide range of studies, some large and some small

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Sex

Jealousy: One More Way Men and Women are Different

Trouble ahead: Just which kind depends on who's at the door
Anton Ovcharenko—Getty Images Trouble ahead: Just which kind depends on who's at the door

It's never easy to be cheated on, but how you react depends on your sex

Not that I cheated on my college girlfriend when we were both freshmen attending schools 130 miles apart. But if I did, I had an excuse: I was young, I was male and I was an idiot. These are conditions that psychologists like to call “co-morbid.”

The only good thing I can say about myself in this very hypothetical scenario, is that at least I had the honesty to ‘fess up to my faithlessness the next time I saw her. She was not—you won’t be surprised to learn—pleased with my behavior. But what I was surprised to learn (bearing in mind the young, male and stupid thing again) was that she was less upset by the sexual aspect of my infidelity than the emotional.

Soon enough, I came to learn that that was the way of things when it comes to women’s reactions to cheating—or at least that’s the stereotype. The equally glib corollary is that men can tolerate the nuzzling and canoodling part of infidelity better than they can the flesh crescendo it leads to.

Now, research out of Chapman University in Orange, California confirms that when it comes to this one aspect of the great gender divide, the big news is that there is no news to report. The stereotypes, it turns out, are spot on.

The study, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, was an ambitious one, involving a whopping 63,894 male and female respondents of both sexes, aged 18 to 65. In addition to basic biographical information such as income, marital history and sexual orientation, the participants were asked to choose (whether from imagination or painful experience) if they’d be hurt more by the carnal or cuddly part of being cheated on.

By a margin that would qualify as a landslide in politics, heterosexual men outpaced heterosexual women 54% to 35% on the physical side of the hurt-feelings equation, while heterosexual women beat heterosexual men 65% to 46% on the emotional side. Homosexual and bisexual men and women were troubled more or less equally by both aspects.

“Heterosexual men really stand out from all other groups,” said psychologist and lead author David Frederick, in a statement. “They were the only ones more likely to be most upset by sexual infidelity.”

In fairness to the straight guys, there’s more than just the doofus factor at work here—there’s also evolution, according to the authors. Short of a paternity test (which hardly existed when our behavioral coding was first being written millions of year ago), a male can never be absolutely certain that a child his mate bears is his, so physical infidelity poses a much greater risk.

And while males in the state of nature are hardwired to mate and mate and mate some more because it’s easy, fun and a calorically cheap way to get their genes across to the next generation, females are coded to seek protection and resources since it’s awfully hard to fetch food and defend against predators while giving birth and nursing. Even modern women are thus inclined—at least evolutionarily—to worry more about the outside romance that may cost them a partner than the roll in the hay that could be a one-time thing.

Societal expectations—outmoded though they may be—exacerbate the difference. Men are still judged more harshly (if only by themselves) in terms of their sexual prowess, while women are brought up to value bonding. Being cheated on thus has a different effect on the sexes because it threatens different aspects of their self-esteem.

Making the study more impressive was that the researchers corrected for nearly every variable other than gender that could have influenced the results—and repeatedly came up empty. Marital status didn’t play a role, nor did a history of being cheated on, nor did income, length of relationship or whether a respondent had children or not. The only factor that seemed to make some difference was that younger respondents of both genders reported a higher degree of upset at the physical aspects of infidelity. That’s probably because younger people of both sexes are in the stage of their lives when they’re helping themselves to that aspect more, so it makes a bigger difference in their relational well-being.

None of this alters the larger takeaway, which is that cheating still stinks. And none of it changes the fact that even a few decades on, a hypothetical person who was guilty of such a thing might still feel kind of bad about it. Or that’s what I’ve been told, but I wouldn’t know. Really.

Read next: Here Are All the Sexist Ways the Media Portrayed Both Men and Women in 2014

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TIME Video Games

Why 2014 Was the Year Sex Got Real in Video Games

BioWare

At least sometimes and in some titles

What can last year’s mainstream video games tell us about the state of sex in gaming? Attempts to grapple with sex maturely in gaming remain elusive—though there were some standouts in 2014.

Cable and even old-fashioned broadcast TV now feature explicit sex routinely, whereas games, on balance, offer cruder visions of humans in erotic scenarios. In part, the industry’s hands are tied by technological limitations that can make graphic sex feel clumsy or inhuman.

Worse, games are still judged by double standards. A BDSM-explicit “erotic romance” like E.L. James’ novel 50 Shades of Grey or the rape scene in an episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones provoke at best passing social media chatter. By comparison, the option—that it’s a choice and an inessential side activity are crucial distinctions—to follow implied sex with violence in a series like Grand Theft Auto leads to widespread outrage, not to mention sending legislators scrambling to introduce censorial bills. Consider the row that erupted in 2005 when someone unearthed a crude sex-related mini-game in Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the presumption being that mere exposure to these things in a game (as opposed to a film or movie) somehow guarantees bad behavior.

On the other hand, agency in games gives players broader authorial control over their experience. One’s behavior in a roleplaying game, for instance, can modestly or substantially alter the evolution of a romantic journey that might culminate in scenes of physical intimacy. A player can spend dozens of hours with a relationship-driven game, examining (if the game supports it) the ramifications of choices for both the gameplay and story, perhaps exploring romance-related avenues that broaden appreciation of the game’s characters or plot dilemmas. The payoff might be the act itself, a typically non-interactive sequence in which lovers are depicted doing what lovers do. Or it could simply be the sense of having explored an optional storyline that didn’t relegate sex to a tawdry stereotype or crass objectification.

Here’s a closer look at sex in games last year:

Dragon Age: Inquisition

BioWare’s been at the fore of grappling with mature sexual themes in its roleplaying games for years, challenging cultural assumptions about sex both in and outside gaming. Dragon Age: Inquisition continues that tradition, allowing players to pursue friendships that can morph into romantic relationships with its cast of secondaries, be they male or female, human or not. The sexual choreography itself still feels awkward (again, technological limitations: when the act ensues, it’s a little like watching marionettes couple), but writer David Gaider raised the bar by including what he describes as the “the first fully gay character” he’s written. (You could have same-sex relationships in BioWare’s Mass Effect, but the characters were apparently bisexual.)

Wolfenstein: The New Order

You’d expect a sequel to a series of all but plotless games mostly about shooting Nazis to treat sex cheaply, but Wolfenstein: The New Order‘s two sexual liaisons (render and animation limitations notwithstanding) wouldn’t be out of place in a film or television show. The New Order‘s story won’t win any Emmys, but the sex scenes feel more like intimacy variables plugged into broader character-development exercises than mere titillation. And, who would’ve thought a Wolfenstein game could be as much about character-building as enemy-butchering?

Grand Theft Auto V

Sometimes humans behave very badly, and sometimes holding up mirrors involves guileful irreverence. (As Emily Dickinson wrote, “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.”) That, it seems, to me anyway, is Rockstar’s point throughout Grand Theft Auto V. You can argue the studio’s overplayed that hand, that the point is made crudely, and that making the same point game after game moves too freely between expressive and exploitive. There’s room for debate here.

But sex in Grand Theft Auto V—often raucous, violent and ridiculous—is hardly a celebration of bad behavior. This is a game that views both women and men through a lens absurdly. I tend to hold with Take-Two Interactive CEO Strauss Zelnick when, responding to a question about sexual violence in the game, he said: “Look, this is a criminal setting. It’s a gritty underworld. It is art. And I—I embrace that art, and it’s beautiful art, but it is gritty.”

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